Guest Opinion: QTAPIs and SF Democrats must unite

  • by Michael T. Nguyen
  • Wednesday May 22, 2024
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Michael T. Nguyen. Photo: Courtesy Michael T. Nguyen
Michael T. Nguyen. Photo: Courtesy Michael T. Nguyen

At a time when LGBTQ+ Americans continue to be persecuted for who they are and who they love, with 515 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation being introduced across the country, there's power in being at the right place at the right time, even in the darkness. Asian Americans have been the fastest-growing group of eligible voters in the United States over the past two decades. Hate, in all its forms, can be combated when community members act to center joy. QTAPI Week, a high-visibility campaign that showcases the contributions of queer and transgender Asian and Pacific Islanders, was first recognized in San Francisco in 2021 and will be held May 25 through June 2 this year. QTAPI Week continues to serve as a platform to organize our community into action. This year, we must organize to defeat former President Donald Trump in November.

The Bay Area QTAPI Coalition is a loosely organized group of LGBTQ+ and AAPI-serving organizations that have worked together since 2019. QTAPI Week was created in 2021 in response to the devastating murders of six Asian massage parlor workers in Atlanta as well as the rise in anti-Asian hate across the country, including the murder of Vicha Ratanapakdee in San Francisco.

This year, several voter engagement events have been created to encourage and inspire members of the LGBTQ+ and AAPI communities to engage with voters who live in critical swing states. On Tuesday, May 28, the AAPI Caucus of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club will host a voter engagement event with longtime LGBTQ & AAPI organizers Alma Soongi Beck, Steve Lew, and Eddie Wong. Wong was the national field director of the 1988 Jesse Jackson for President campaign, western regional director of the National Rainbow Coalition, and is currently on the organizing committee for Asian Americans for Democracy (AA4D) that recently announced $500,000 in grants to 10 state-based organizations in seven key states where there are enough Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) voters to swing state Electoral College results.

As we wrap up AAPI Heritage Month in May and enter LGBTQ Pride Month in June, among the festivities, including a book talk, museum tour, panel conversations, and celebrations planned for QTAPI Week and beyond, perhaps the most important act that you, the reader, can do to ensure we have a democracy after Election Day in November is to find a group of friends and organize this year to win back the House and keep the Senate and White House in Democratic control.

Coalition building is more of an art than a science. When different groups and organizations work in coalition for a shared purpose, their collective effort becomes more powerful than each entity working on its own. I have felt and seen, first hand, the incredible passion and advocacy of San Franciscans in politics from the campaign trail this past spring. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to some of the most talented and hardest working people in the nation. Therefore, we must work this summer to heal divides and build coalitions as Democrats to ensure victory this November.

Politics is all about showing up and working with others toward a shared vision. Our nation's capital will be recognizing QTAPI Week for the first time this year. GAPA, the GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance, recognized Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside), the first openly LGBTQ person of color elected to Congress, with the Donald Masuda Vanguard Award for his contributions as the OG: "Original Gaysian!" I'm hopeful that Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), who's running for the open 16th Congressional District seat in the South Bay, can join him next year to form the Congressional Gaysian Caucus. I was heartened to see so many QTAPIs in one room at the recent GAPA Banquet, including Oakland Councilmember Janani Ramachandran, former mayor of Cupertino Gilbert Wong, and Oakland Port Executive Director Danny Wan, as well as gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), and straight allies Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who represents District 3 that includes Chinatown, and District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, both of whom are running for mayor of San Francisco in November. Thank you for being in community with the QTAPI community.

The time is now to start organizing your friends and family to get involved in the November election. That means phone banks, door knocking, letter writing and social media campaigns, and other voter engagement activities will be key to winning up and down the ballot. The solution to the rise in anti-LGBTQ and anti-Asian hate must be multifaceted and long-term, and it will require commitments and resources from public health and public safety advocates, community centered organizations, and our appointed and elected officials who serve us all.

I will be working with San Francisco Democrats, who are organized into chartered clubs and organizations that help uplift the issues that resonate with volunteers to get them activated and involved in local, state, and national politics. You can register to vote, attend an event, join a club, and campaign for the candidates that inspire you. However, I am asking all San Franciscans of all stripes to work together for victory this November. We must put aside our differences and work to turn out voters in swing states.

As a former Drag Out the Vote ambassador, we made an impact when voters sashayed their way to the polls over the last four years. In 2020, Asian Pacific American (APA) voters turned out in record numbers in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, states that President Joe Biden won with less than 3% of the vote. Now is time to put on some glitter and get to work! QTAPIs and SF Democrats are the heroes we need to save Democracy! LFG!

Michael T. Nguyen, a gay man, is the founder of the Bay Area QTAPI Coalition that produces QTAPI Week in San Francisco and serves on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee after being elected this past March.

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